While it is well established that non-native speakers differ from native speakers in their perception and/or production of Mandarin lexical tones, empirical studies focusing on non-native learners are still limited. The objective of this study is to add to the current understanding of lexical tone perception by comparing native speakers of standard Korean from the Seoul/Kyunggi area differing in Mandarin experience (NK1, NK2) with native speakers of Mandarin. NK1 (n = 10) had no experience with Mandarin whereas NK2 (n = 10) consisted of highly advanced learners of Mandarin. A group of 10 native Mandarin (NM) speakers was included as controls. Accuracy of perception of six tone pairs (T1–T2, T1–T3, T1–T4, T2–T3, T2–T4, T3–T4) was assessed in a four-alternative forced-choice discrimination test. As expected, the NK2 group with extensive Mandarin learning experience resembled the NM group to a greater extent than did the NK1 group. T2–T3 was the hardest pair for both NK groups, but NK2 had the largest advantage over NK1 for this pair. Apart from T2–T3 which is generally considered difficult, tone pairs involving T1 caused some misperception by the NK groups. This may be related to the difficulty with perceiving a level tone which shows the least fundamental frequency (F0) movement and possibly has limited perceptual salience.
- lexical tones